Thunderstorms (with or without lightning) are very rare in Davis, and in California as a whole, because of the cold water in the adjacent Pacific Ocean, which has a stabilizing effect on the air and thus inhibits their formation. (source: When they do occur it is either in the winter or spring or as a freak storm in the summer. Thunderstorms here are very mild compared to most parts of the country. A big storm in Davis is a few claps of thunder that everyone talks about the next day. Sometimes they cause power outages. In extreme cases funnel clouds or tornadoes can form.

To put this into perspective for the Native Californians, thunderstorms can last for hours with several claps of thunder a minute, and sheeting rain. Bolt lightning (straight to ground) can be the norm rather than the more common in Davis cloud to cloud lightning. This severity of storm is rarely seen in California except perhaps in the mountains.

Thunder is a rare enough event in Davis that we can keep track of it:


  • September 9-10, 2021 - Starting in the evening of the 9th and continuing into a rainstorm in the early morning of the 10th, we've got some nice rumbles and flashes. Unfortunately, it's been so hot and dry that there are fears this storm could lead to igniting more fires.


  • October 3, 2015 - Sudden thunder, lightning, and heavy rain in the evening from a complex of thunderstorms that rapidly developed over Sacramento and moved into Davis from the east. Quite the lightning show (numerous cloud-to-cloud strikes per minute) accompanied by a downpour and brief small hail. Lightning was visible in all four directions.  Another storm rolled in from the east and brought even more thunder and lightning that continued past midnight.

Cloud-to-Cloud lightning - UC Davis campus





  • There was a tornado warning in effect on February 28th. Though there was ultimately nothing exciting in Davis, there were funnel clouds in Woodland and reports of a tornado out by Knights Landing.
  • A dry, storm-less winter was interrupted with a nice thunderstorm on Wednesday, March 5th.


  • Thunder was heard during the rare Summer rain on September 21 2013 (one day before the End of Summer).
  • March 30, 2013 - Thunderstorm with dozens of bolts coming in from the southwest. Rain began around 11pm. —gcoville

LOUD and LOOOOOONG thunder, enough that my buddy who was in the military in Kansas said it was the longest he had heard. Also able to set off car alarms

  • March 31, 2013, 4:40 pm local. More thunder and lightning. First time I've ever seen thunderstorms on two successive days in California. —jimstewart
  • June June 9-10. 2013. Midnight thunderstorm striking in the west between Davis and the Mayacamas Mountains. Some rain. Very beautiful. My friends wouldn't let me out of the car to get a better look though. Wimps. —MaxwellKappes
  • September 2, 2013 - Thunder, lightning, and a weird yellow sky as the sun set (around 7:30 PM), after two cloudy days. Some raindrops to accompany them. Plus a rainbow.

Correction, TWO rainbows. —MaxwellKappes

Here's a clip: (Courtesy ConstantiaOomen)




Davis, September 2, 2013 - Hummingbird on branch, look careful - Photo courtesy ConstantiaOomen Davis, September 2, 2013 Davis, September 2, 2013


From West Davis in June 2013 From West Davis in June 2013 From West Davis in June 2013 02 September, 2013. West Davis 02 September, 2013. Rainbow in a yellow sky. West Davis, September 2013


  • August 4, 2012 - About 10 bolts were observed outside of Northwest Davis. Didn't see any rain though. - mikeycrews

Yes, it rained, and more than a few drops too! We saw thunder & lightning here (J Street), for about an hour. Every approximate 3-5 minutes a beautiful lightning. It came from the North-West. ConstantiaOomen

  • July 22, 2012 - Tons of lightning east of Davis: 2,000 strikes and 30 small (contained) fires. Amazing. My wife and I took some photos while parked in the country between Davis and Winters. - justincox22
  • April 24, 2012 - thought I heard a slight rumble.
  • March 18, 2012 - just had about 5 minutes of hail in West Davis
    • I was flying over Davis at 1100' at around 1:00 PM. I saw the downpour and I thought it would be interesting to fly through it. When I got within about a half mile the turbulence got so bad that I turned tail and ran away. —JimStewart


  • June 6, 2011 - low rumbles after days of rain. Wacky weather this year.
  • June 1, 2011 - A few peals, accompanied by three-quarter-inch hail and a funnel cloud, per this article in the Sacramento Bee
  • May 15, 2011 - At least one good peal in an unseasonably cold storm.

With hail, and one instance of super bright then super loud thunder. Went and told roomate to stand down cause we weren't getting shelled Daubert


  • Dec 19, 2010 - Thought I saw a couple flashes to the southwest
  • November 20, 2010 - Rumblings with some flashing of lightning starting at around 4:30 PM, with rain on and off all day. The lightning led to a substantial delay in the resumption of the Causeway Classic after half-time.

- Power is now out in the Cuarto Dorms and the U Mall. Anywhere else?

- Looks like power is out west of russell blvd from 113 east to about A st.

  • July 9, 2010 - Rain and thunder in the wee hours of the morning! Started at about 3:30 am and continued until 4:30AM.
  • April 28, 2010 - Moderate rain with some rumbling thunder and lightning flashes. It's turning out to be a thunderous and rainy April!!

Where is the lightning hitting? I can definitely hear it. —IDoNotExist

Not sure how anyone would answer that question unless they were right next to something that was hit...

You've never seen a lighting bolt hit ground in the distance? If you're in a tall building clear of trees, it's probably easy enough if you're facing in the right direction.

Nope, though that is something I would like to see.

There are lots of real time maps of lightning, both air and ground strikes. It is VERY easy to reliably track, as they are innately radio tagged.

  • April 20, 2010 - Rain, a touch of hail, and some mild (so far) thunder
  • April 12, 2010 - Rain with periodic but mild thunder
  • June 10, 2013 - Periodic sprinkles with many bolts from 12-1AM that could be seen from Davis and appeared to be range from Winters to the Coastal Range.